History of the Nashua Center for the Arts
Rich Lannan tells us about the NCA, from concept through completion.
Planning for the Nashua Center for the Arts began in 2015 under former Mayor Donalee Lozeau and the leadership of Brian McCarthy, then president of the Board of Alderman. The city hired Webb Management, the leading provider of advisory services for the development and operation of cultural facilities. Their initial report was delivered in spring of 2016.
In December of 2018, the Nashua Board of Aldermen officially gave the performing arts center project the greenlight, voting to approve a $15.5 million bond in support of the project. “I think the underlying purpose here is to improve Nashua’s economy, strengthen the downtown and improve the quality of life in Nashua,” Mayor Jim Donchess said. Fundraising began in earnest, led by Nashua Community Arts, with the goal of raising $4 million in support of the project.
The Center for the Arts Steering Committee met with the architects through the spring of 2019 to gather input for the design of the exterior of the building. The meetings were open to the public with several people attending each – public input was sought and welcomed during all the meetings. The committee reviewed about a dozen examples of performing arts centers across the US of the same approximate size as a starting point to gather both positive and negative feedback. It was agreed that the building should be contextual – demonstrating that it is a place where people gather for exciting entertainment, and that people on the street should be able to see activity inside – eliciting the desire to come in. The architects went through three iterations before the exterior was approved.
The last iteration included adjustments to make the building fit into its surroundings. The exterior surface is gray in color reflecting the gray limestone of Surf next door, the bank across West Pearl Street, and the granite lintels on the windows in the back section of the center. The paint color on the interior walls showing through the windows mirrors the red brick of the back section of the center. The horizontal elements and the height of the roof are aligned with those of the back section, and the terrace is aligned with Surf. With the fundraising goal met, on April 6, 2021, construction of the Center for the Arts officially began with the demolition of Alec’s Shoes (formerly Miller’s Department Store) at 201 Main Street. Passersby were able to view Harvey Construction’s progress as the center took shape. Later that year, the venue was officially named the “Nashua Center for the Arts,” thanks to the support of a local family who contributed an anonymous $1 million gift.
The photo on the right from Mike LoRe’s collection of everything Historic Nashua shows the corner of West Pearl and Main Street right after the Sunlight Pharmacy was demolished to make way for Miller’s. You can see the east wall of the Dunbarton Building (now the back of house for the Nashua Center for the Arts) The Dunbarton Building was built circa 1898. The building on the corner originally housed the Crockery Furniture company, built earlier in the 1800’s before the Dunbarton building (left).
Nashua Community Arts
Nashua Community Arts in 2018 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization to support the Nashua Center for the Arts. They set out with the mission to provide financial assistance to the Nashua Center for the Arts and to ensure the Center is a community cultural facility that provides a wide range of high-quality performances to the Nashua downtown arts scene - while also serving as a resource and gathering place for the community.
Nashua Community Arts is driven by their belief that arts and culture are the heart and soul of any city, and that art can create a common language across a diverse culture. A vibrant arts community provides a strong creative economy and is vital to the culture and economic development of the greater Nashua area.